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Don’t Cry Over Spilled Paint (The Easiest Way I’ve Found To Clean Up Large Amounts Of Spilled Paint)

Have you ever spilled an entire quart or gallon of paint and then panicked, wondering how in the world you were going to get it cleaned up? I have. Over my 30+ years of DIYing, I’ve spilled several quarts and gallons of paint.

Years ago, my initial instinct would have been to grab a whole roll of paper towels and just start mopping up the mess. But in the last few years, I’ve found a much better (and much less stressful) way to clean up spilled latex paint when I spill it on hard surfaces. (Since I don’t have carpet, I have no idea if this would work on carpet, but I’d probably be tempted to try it.)

The trick? Leave it alone and let it dry completely. When it’s dry, peel it up. And then deal with any little remnants left behind.

Over the past year alone, I’ve had to do this three times. The first time, I spilled a quart of dark purple paint in our carport. I didn’t actually spill it. I had set the can of paint on a table, and then during the night, we had really high winds and a large piece of MDF was blown over onto the table, knocking the quart of paint onto the carport floor. When I found it, it had been there a couple of hours already. But instead of panicking, I just left it undisturbed to dry completely. (Once I noticed that it was completely dry, I wasn’t so careful around it, and I did step on it. That’s why it has a shoe print on it. 😀 )

But once it was completely dry, I just grabbed the edge and peeled it up. The bulk of it came up in one solid piece.

I wasn’t sure this would work as well as it does on a really smooth floor since the concrete has a rough surface, but it came up just fine!

I did still have these little remnants left, but those will come up very easily once I get enough water hoses to use my power washer in the carport.

The second time this happened in the last year was actually in our master bathroom. I had just finished the master bathroom and was working on the home gym, inching closer and closer to finishing that room. After I painted the walls in the closet area black…

…I set the one-gallon can of black paint on the floor in the bathroom. And soon after that, I accidentally pushed it over when an extension cord wrapped around it and I pulled too hard. The rest of that black paint (about a quart) spilled in a puddle on the bathroom floor.

But I left it there, completely undisturbed, for about a week and then peeled it up. And once again, almost 100% of it came up in one solid piece. I did have a little bit of scrubbing to do on about a three-inch strip of grout, and there were a few thin splatters that scratched off pretty easily (since it was on tile). But it all came up. And that was so much easier than trying to wipe it all up with paper towels and making a huge, smeared mess.

So on Friday, when I accidentally pushed this brand new quart of paint right off my desk and onto the floor in my studio, I didn’t panic, and I didn’t run for the roll of paper towels. I just left it alone. But since this is a high traffic area (I’m in here all the time, but so are Cooper and Felicity), I just grabbed a cardboard box and put it over the spill so none of us would accidentally get into it, and then I set a few heavy things on top to keep it in place.

When I checked on it this morning, I could see that about 1/3 of it is dry, but the rest is still wet. I’ll wait a few more days and then peel it up and see what kind of further cleanup is needed. This is a bit of a different situation because I spilled latex paint on a floor that has been painted with latex paint. So we’ll see how it works. I’m hoping for the best, but it may discolor the painted floor, especially since I spilled such a saturated color. But at the very least, this is much easier and way less stressful than trying to mop up the mess with paper towels.

So this is my method of dealing with spilled latex paint on hard floor surfaces. I’ve left puddles of paint to dry on concrete, tile, hardwood floors (sealed with oil-based poly), and now painted hardwood. Although I can’t guarantee anyone else’s success with this, I can say that I’d personally never choose to run for a roll of paper towels to mop up a large quantity of spilled latex paint. And like I said, I’d even be tempted to use this method if I spilled on carpet, too. But that’s just me. 🙂

Side note: Needless to say, I didn’t get the exterior of my back studio doors painted this weekend. Cleaning the doors took way longer than I expected, and then I was painting on the Jasco Primer & Mask onto the panes as the cold weather set in. Once I had a chance to go get a replacement quart of paint for the one I spilled, the weather was too cold to paint. 🙁 Once the temp gets above mid-40s later this week, I’ll get out there and paint. But today, it’s way too cold for that!)

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